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Glossary of EduTech Jargon

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The jargon in this field gets pulled from both the computer and the educational industries and can be daunting for the uninitiated. Feel free to submit any additional terms you come across.


adaptive learning. A system designed to achieve the individualized results of working with a human teacher or personal tutor one-on-one using technology. Using a combination of assessments, tasks, and other methods of gathering feedback from students, computers tailor the material and emphases presented to each student, making computer-based instruction highly individualized and interactive.

authentic assessment. Using “real-world tasks” (i.e., a project, a presentation, or a paper) rather than quizzes, to assess students mastery of concepts and skills. Assessments are often based on a rubric.


blended learning. Term used to describe educational approaches that involve both traditional classroom and computer-mediated learning. Under some definitions, the computer-mediated component must reduce time spent in the classroom.


courseware. In most cases, used loosely to describe any digitized resource suitable for in a classroom -- including, for example, a video of a lecture, a text file lecture notes, or a .pdf of a worksheet. Not necessarily interactive.

Creative Commons license. A “some rights reserved” licensing system that allows copyright holders to make resources widely available for certain kinds of use and reuse, but retain some of the legal rights associated with copyright. The licenses specify conditions for use -- i.e., whether commercial use is allowed, whether the creator must be cited, etc. -- in both human- and machine-readable metadata forms. Not to be confused with “fair use” “public domain”. (More)


deep learning. In pedagogical literature and educational research, used in conjunction with “surface learning” “strategic learning” to describe different empirically observed approaches to learning that students adopt. This research suggests that students retain and integrate what they learn better when they adopt a deep approach and much pedagogical research focuses on how to foster this approach (More) NB: This term has a different meaning in information and computer science.



fair use. Use of copyrighted material for which the user does not need to obtain permission, as outlined in Sections 107-114 of the US copyright code. Use of a portion of a copyrighted work for non-profit, educational purposes is considered fair, so long as it does not adversely effect the market value of the work. However, the definition of fair use is by no means clear-cut, and is open to interpretation. Acknowledging the source of the copyrighted material does not substitute for obtaining permission.

flipped classroom. Students watch recorded lectures independently as homework, and do traditional homework assignments, such as problem sets or projects, in class in small groups and/or with an instructor. (More)

formative assessment. Assessment designed to provide students with feedback and foster learning, but not necessarily to generate a grade. Examples might include instructor or peer comments on a draft, a diagnostic pre-test, or an online or in-class poll to gauge understanding of concepts covered and indicate areas for further work. Compare to summative assessment.



human-computer interaction (HCI) - also referred to as man-machine interaction and computer-human interaction. The examination of the interplay between humans and computers, with the intention of optimizing design and interaction. Specifically, HCI strives to make machines more responsive to users' needs. Essentially, it's the attempt to make computers "think" more like people so they can understand each other better.

hybrid learning - See blended learning.


iTunesU - An Apple interface that allows university and K-12 instructors and other non-profit educational institutions to create and freely distribute digital course material to Mac, PC, iPad, and iPhone users. (Apple does not explicitly support competing i-devices such as Android tablets, but since digital rights management technologies are not applied to iTunesU material, it can be downloaded and converted to a format readable on those devices.




learning object. In the world of education technology, a self-contained, reusable unit of learning material, which can be aggregated with other learning objects to form a set of materials for a given course. Generally refers to digital objects, and includes the object itself -- i.e., a lecture video, a tutorial on a particular topic, an exam -- and metadata identifying and classifying the object. Somewhat theoretical/aspirational, what term means concretely is debated. (More)

learning objective. What students are expected to learn in a particular course or unit of a course (i.e., lesson, assignment, chapter, learning object).

lecture capture. Digitally recording lectures, usually in order to make them available to students online. Might be a simple audio or video recording of lecturer speaking, a video recording of what is presented on screen during the lecture, a combination of the two, or a very complex recording made with specialized hardware that captures the lecture, any audiovisual aids used, and perhaps the audience. (More)


metadata. Generally speaking, data describing or classifying a particular object, although exact meaning varies according to context. In the case of an educational resource, it might include copyright information, authorship information, keywords or tags that search engines will recognize, and data that defines how the object relates to other objects (e.g., "question bank, chapter 5 of textbook Y").

MOOC/Massive open online course. An open access, online course designed to bolster traditional course materials (readings, problem sets, written assignments, etc) with extensive participation in interactive online forums. Generally used in distance education to foster a sense of classroom community.


next generation learning. Umbrella term taken from the “Next Generation Learning Challenges” grant program to promote educational innovation and use technology to improve college readiness and completion in the United States


OCW. See OpenCourseWare

OER. See open educational resource.

open educational resource. Generically, education-related material made freely available for teaching and learning, often through a Creative Commons, or similar, license. Usually (although not always) applied to digital resources such as entire courses, textbooks, tutorials, lectures, and in some cases the software used to make or distribute material used for teaching, learning or research.

Open Learning Initiative. A non-profit program at Carnegie Mellon University for research-based development of high-quality online interactive college courses. The courses use interactivity and formative assessments to foster deep learning and are available openly and at little to no cost to independent learners and instructors.

open-source. Originally used to describe software code or media content that was developed collectively by a wide network of users and distributed freely, with fewer reserved rights than usual under copyright law. In a higher education context, it has also been applied to digital educational resources made freely and widely available to users, but whose underlying code remains exclusive or proprietary to a narrow group of developers. (Such resources would be more accurately described as “open license”.)

OpenCourseWare. A movement started by MIT to share course materials freely and openly via the Internet or iTunes U. These materials differ from online courses, in that learners do not need to enroll to use them and do not receive faculty support or credit when using them. Instructors are free to co-opt them for their own courses, and often encouraged to share alike. The material collected under the OpenCourseWare banner is not necessarily interactive, however -- digitized lecture notes and paper assignments are common. (More)


public domain. Open to free public use, in most cases because copyright is expired or was never applicable (for example, a mathematical formula is considered an idea and not copyrightable). Material created by some governments (and therefore indirectly funded by the public) may be legally considered public domain.



rubric. A table in which teachers articulate which skills or what knowledge a particular assignment or exam assesses, and how a student's level of mastery will be determined in each case. (More)


summative assessment. Assessment designed to evaluate and report learning outcomes -- that is, how well students have mastered the desired skills or material -- usually in the form of a grade. Compare with formative assessment.




Virtual Learning Environment. An web-based educational environment (usually an online course) that attempts to recreate social elements of traditional classroom learning, in addition to delivering content. Instructors use web-conferencing or live chats for synchronous interaction with and among students, and wikis, discussion boards, and shared documents (GoogleDocs, DropBox) to foster asynchronous collaboration.

VLE. See Virtual Learning Environment.